The animals who end up in animal shelters are totally dependant upon the people who work in the shelters to do all they can to save their lives. In turn, the shelters rely upon the community for their help and support. In Washoe County, local humane groups and thousands of animal lovers have worked together to achieve one of the highest save rates in the country for homeless pets. There are still many more animals in need in our community, but the progress is something of which we can all be proud. Animal Services, with their dual role of public safety and animal protection, is a key player in this success.
Recently, Mitch Schneider was named Manager of Washoe County Regional Animal Services (WCRAS). In many ways, this role is the next logical step for Schneider in a lifetime interest in animals.
“According to my mother, I was bringing found animals home as early as three years of age,” said Schneider. “Our first dog was a German Shepherd that was adopted from a shelter; she turned out to be a fantastic dog.”
Schneider began his career with animals as a professional dog trainer. In addition to competing nationally and winning awards in the dog show circuit, Schneider taught basic canine obedience training. “I really enjoyed helping people with their dogs,” said Schneider. “When I got into animal services work, I found I was able to continue helping people and that my dog training background came in handy.”
As the former head of field services for WCRAS, Schneider lead a proactive effort to reunite pets with their people rather than impounding them. WCRAS has one of the highest return-to-owner rates for dogs in the country, with over 60% of the dogs being reunited with their people.
“We need every pet owner to help by spaying or neutering and getting identification on their pets,” said Schneider. “Identification allows us to get found pets back home instead of impounding them; this reduces shelter costs and is better for the pet and owner alike. A microchip is the best form of identification.”
Schneider’s passion for seeing people reunited with their lost pets has made him a strong advocate for microchipping. A microchip, about the size of a large grain of rice, is inserted under the skin of a dog, cat or other animal. This chip can then be read with a scanner and the resulting number links the pet to their owner. Unlike a collar that can come off or be removed, the microchip provides permanent identification for a pet. Any vet clinic or animal shelter can scan for a chip to identify an animal and reunite them with their owner.
WCRAS recently launched a new web site, http://www.washoecounty.us/animal, which includes links to view found pets housed at their shelter and obtain dog licenses.
One of Schneider’s current projects is developing a volunteer pet detective program to assist with reuniting lost pets with their owners. Anyone interested in volunteering as a pet detective should call WCRAS at 775-353-8908.
To help ensure that animals who are not reunited with their people are given every opportunity to find a new home, Schneider is committed to working with Nevada Humane Society, the SPCA of Northern Nevada, and other animal rescue groups who in turn adopt animals out to people in our community. These cooperative relationships are key to the lifesaving success for homeless pets in Washoe County.
“If it is true that you can judge a community by the way it treats its animals, then Washoe County can take comfort in knowing they are one of the best communities,” said Schneider. “However, I’m also going to add a plea to every pet owner to microchip their pet, because it’s so important to keeping pets in their homes and out of animal shelters.”